Is your name in his ledger?
I sat in the corner booth of Efferding’s Diner where the waitress filled my oversized coffee mug. “You gonna need a box for that?” Of course, I was going to need a box. No one ever came out of Efferding’s eating everything. Unless they were a competitive eater or weighed 900 pounds.
“Uh, yeah,” I said. If I was at home, I would have unbuttoned my pants – to let my stomach escape. I glanced around. Hell, it was Florida, people would think I was weird if I didn’t unbutton my pants. I exhaled deeply and patted my belly. Not sure what I was thinking, trying to devour the Big Clete - twelve pancakes, twelve sausages, a plate of hash browns, twelve strips of bacon, and a piece of chocolate pie in one sitting – but I couldn’t resist, the picture was too epic.
My phone buzzed and a notification appeared through the cracked screen – Meeting!!!! I took another swig of my coffee and debated leaving. This whole meeting was a bad idea. Borrowing money always was. I found a shady ad on a questionable website called task.um that promised easy money, no strings, fast! Because banks wouldn’t give me money, I clicked on it, filled out a form, and here I am. I’d give it five more minutes, take the remains of my breakfast, and go home. Take a quick nap before going to work.
At the next table, two stoner guys were talking about Crystal Pepsi and quantum mechanics. It wasn’t the weirdest conversation I’d ever heard here. I closed my eyes.
A voice called out. “Derick Bishop?”
I opened my eyes and a tall, Vladimir Putin-wraith-like man with a faded red tie stood across from me. “Yes, and you are?”
“I am your nine o’clock appointment.” He sat down and grabbed a clean fork. “May I?” He said with a vaguely midwestern accent.
He didn’t wait. He pulled over the plate and began shoveling the leftover hash browns and pancakes into his face at an alarming rate. He swallowed it down like a Burmese Python consuming a Pomeranian. When he was done, he set the silverware aside all business-like and folded his hands. “Now you are looking for a loan, right?”
“Just to be sure? You’re not a cop or mafia, right?” I asked.
“No. No. No. I am a venture capitalist – with a good soul. I invest in people. I made a fortune and now I loan to people in need. Sometimes I’m the guy who makes anonymous donations on Gofundme. I like to give back when I can.”
“So, can you give me the money?”
He shook his finger. “Not as such. This is very much a loan.”
“I mean, my daughter has cancer. Medical bills – we don’t have insurance. Lost it when one of my jobs relocated to Bermuda or the Bahamas.”
“Your girl. What’s her name?”
I didn’t want to give this weirdo my daughter’s actual name. “Iris.”
“Ah, pretty name. Like the eye that sees all.”
I shrugged. “So that’s my situation. I mean if you give money it will help us tremendously. Make it so I don’t have to work four jobs anymore.”
“Your wife, she work?”
“Not married, not together. Iris is just my daughter from a relationship born out of one too many White Russians and a Now That’s What I Call Music CD.”
“69. I don’t know. Look, are we gonna do this? Cause I gotta work in a few.”
The waitress came back over with a box and the check. “Looks like you didn’t need it after all.”
I smiled. “Guess not.”
“Look, just because I’m not married doesn’t mean I love my girl any less. Sometimes shit just happens and the next day you find out she needs a bone marrow transplant, and it’s not like the doctors work for sugar cookies. You know what I mean?”
“I do. I’d love to donate. But I’m way over budget on my charitable giving. You understand.”
“I really don’t.”
“But I will help you. We’ll set up a loan. And if things improve – and you make every effort to pay me back. I might be able to find a way to forgive said loan.”
“Ugh. Fine. What do I have to do?”
The man dropped a Target bag of money on the table. All things considered, the bills looked like a group of vending machine rejects and sock money.
“$20,000.” All for Iris.” He took out a black notebook and wrote my name in it.
“Call me Merrick.”
“K – I take this money hasn’t been laundered.”
“It’s all above board.”
Which meant it wasn’t. But what did choice did I have?
“How do I pay you back?”
I take Venmo…or we can just meet back here once a month.
“Don’t worry. I know you are a good man, trying to do the right thing. And if you’re not, well…I know how to find you.” He stood up, buttoned his suit coat, and left the restaurant.
I looked at the money again. It smelled like chlorine. I plucked out two $20s and dropped them on the table. Grabbed the sack and made my way for the door. I got in the car and dialed Stacie and got her voicemail.
“Hey Stace…I wanted to let you know I got the money for Suzie’s operation. I’ll stop by tonight and we’ll get it sorted.”
Not sure which bank was gonna take this and reputable surgeons frowned on being handed a bag of cash.
I drove to the gas station to fill up. Leaving a grocery bag of money out in the open was a bad idea, so I grabbed $50 and tucked the rest under empty sacks of fast food and soda bottles, so it blended in with the other refuse.
I walked into the store and to the counter. “Give me a scratch-off will you Reggie. The Big Mountain one.”
I paid with the $50.
With a penny from the tray, I scratched off looking for three big mountains. One…mountain…two...three…prize…$100! Holy crap! It was my lucky day!
I traded the ticket back in and Reggie was kind enough to give me five crisp $20s. I bought another ticket. Scratched again and $50!
Taking my winnings back to the car, I looked down and the sack of money was still there under the seat. I rifled through it, pulled out another $200. Went back in the store and doubled my money in scratch-offs.
Something about this gross swimming pool money was lucky. And I was getting cleaner bills. How long could my luck hold? I was already up a few hundred dollars and Suzie’s surgery wouldn’t cost the full $20,000. Scratch off was slow – I needed something quicker. A bus passed with an advertisement for Gardens Racetrack. Why not? Take a thousand and if I went bust, I’d still have $19,000 for Suzie.
I threw the car in gear and headed toward Gardens Racetrack. I wasn’t sure this was the type of place I could get into without owning a Polo Shirt. But there didn’t seem to be a bouncer. I grabbed a thousand. Split it in half. I glanced at the race forms. 5-1 odds. 19-1. It was all Greek to me. Math is hard.
I picked horses’ names that I liked. Razorback and Murder Stallion. Murder Stallion had 26-1 odds. I went to watch the race.
An odd sensation fell over me as I watched my horse. I could feel its heartbeat. The energy, the stamina. This horse was going to win and win big.
They were off. Razorback darted ahead and never looked back. Beat a horse with 1-2 odds and stayed there. Winning by half the length of the track. I stood cheering!
Before the next race began, I saw Murder Stallion. A sleek black horse with a white patch on its face. I could feel this horse too. Cool determination. Power in its hooves. It pitied the other horses on the racetrack. Even though Murder Stallion had never won before.
They were off – and the race was tight, but Murder Stallion strove and powered through. Overtook Friendship Bronco and Horse Donut Supreme. Soon it was neck-and-neck with America Mustang Love. Closer and closer they drew to the finish line.
“It’s Murder Stallion by a nose!” The announcer exclaimed.
I jumped, yelled, and screamed. This was a sign I couldn’t lose. I returned to the betting pool and turned in my tickets $12,000 richer and halfway to paying Merrick back. I could go, be content. But I’d still owe money, still working four jobs, and still stuck in a dead-end life rarely seeing my daughter.
I had a pile of luck cash that couldn’t lose. I returned to the car, grabbed the sack, and wagered it all. I looked over the last racing form. I saw the horse. Karennova. 2-1 odds. A safe bet. It was enough to pay Merrick and have some leftover.
I walked up to the railing, feeling the calm of the universe washing over me. It was all right. Today was my day. One more race. Karennova – a beautiful cream-colored horse, with a white mane, swooshed to one side. This was a champion – a thoroughbred. She had won so many races. Dozens of jockeys ate her dust.
They were off. Karennova rushed out ahead. She knew this track. She was a horse length ahead, two, but as the finish line drew nearer so did another horse – One Trick Pony raced furiously behind. Galloping with renewed speed and stamina. I licked my lips and focused on the finish line. She was so close…yet so far. Every step Karennova took it seemed as if One Trick Pony took two. The line was so close.
The announcer called a photo finish, but there was a sinking feeling in my gut. I wrapped my arms around myself and waited for the call. As soon as it was made, ice flowed through my veins. One Trick Pony won.
I slunk back to my car. Not sure how to tell Stacie just kidding about the money. How could have I been so stupid? I should have walked away ahead.
As I was getting into my car. I heard a voice. “Do you have my money, Mr. Bishop?”
“Merrick. No…I’m…uh, you only gave it to me this morning.”
“And what did you do with it?”
“Well, I’m at a racetrack – so take a guess.”
He pulled out a little black notebook and made a hard scratch through my name. “I think you know what this means.”
I fell to my knees. “Please, my daughter. Think of her.”
“I did by loaning you money.”
“Please, you know I can’t pay you.”
“I don’t need money. You are shackled to your fate. To forever struggle against the crushing reality of debt. To climb up only to fall. To live in the red every day, knowing that nothing you ever do will pull you out of it.”
“My name isn’t Merrick. It is Karma. And I strive for balance. You were given a gift, a chance to help Suzie. To get her everything she needed, to put her first. You failed. But you still have it within you to help her.”
I glanced down at the pavement.
“Goodbye, Mr. Bishop.”
I climbed up and checked my phone. 20 missed calls from Stacie. The phone rang again for lucky 21.
“Hey, Derick? You said you got the money?”
I exhaled, “No, I’m sorry. It fell through.”
“Damn. That sucks, but hey guess what?!” She said excitedly. “I won $10,000 on a scratch-off! It’s not everything but it something.”
“That’s awesome. Hey, I think I can pick up some extra shifts. Make up a little more.” We talk more before I hung up.
I wonder what she did to get on Karma’s good side.
About the Creator
I'm an author, activist, and local politician. I write various genre's including dystopia, sci-fi, political satire, or long-winded love letters to Crystal pepsi. I've written one novel - The Butterfly and the Flame as Dana DeYoung.
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